Mapping User Experience to the University Experience in #Mapvember

UX Mapping Methods Compared: A Cheat Sheet

I stumbled over these handy user experience maps this morning and thought about how useful they might be in my teaching, learning, and research.

Empathy maps: designed to help folk understand the mind of the user.

empathy map in four quadrants with user in the middle.

I could use this at the end of the semester to understand how my students navigated the semester-long research paper we write. I have no idea how my “users” experience the most time-consuming and constraining activity in the course. This could help.

Customer journey maps: describes the path a user takes in adopting a particular product or service.

journey into adopting (or not) a product or service

My department could use this in exploring how our students adopt the English major and how that journey works from inside the student. I suspect that the journey we lay out for them and the one they actually follow are quite different, complementary but different. We just revised our curriculum. This might be a qualitative way to evaluate whether the path we are requiring is one that those who are taking it signed up for.

Service blueprints: much like the customer journey maps, these apply to teachers/employees. These maps help to uncover the how and where we ‘touch’ our learners/customers. They would work in conjunction with the customer journey maps.

We could use these with new teachers to help map out where they see these ‘touchpoints’ and compare those maps with what the department sees as the touchpoints. I think these maps might be fleshed out using tools like Dave Snowden’s Cynefin Framework/SenseMaker techonology.

Experience maps: these take customer-journey maps and apply them across user types and user products. You use these maps to make generalizations about user experience. In this image, the experience mapped is “pregnancy”.

Since the purpose of these maps is to understand a general human behavior, I might use them to explain the arc of a course and the learning behaviors it might generate in students. The follow up would be whether those behaviors were actually generated in the users. This map is quite a bit fuzzier and more abstract than the others, so perhaps it might be used in planning or revising a course syllabus and then making readjustments on the fly to the course as required. Used in conjunction with empathy maps?

Maps like these are often guilty of the sin of ‘making complexity legible’. Or as James C. Scott says, they destroy the “metis”, the local knowledge, or at the least they valorize this legibilizing over local, folk knowledge and concepts. Entering with an awareness of this bias, I think that what could be revealed would allow teachers and admins insights that might lead to a ‘re-messification’ of the various ‘fields of users’. We could make our blind spots legible with the end goal being to make the relationships more natural, more like what we find in the margins of fields. Rich. Diverse. Messy. Convergent and divergent.

That is the idea I took from this foray into UX. Anybody need a really interesting research project that might be turned into a consulting business? Maybe this is it. There is a UX conference in Washington, D.C. in April. If I can find $5000 I might go. A big investment, but maybe a worthy career move.

Polytropos: Your Turn to Serve


Reading a very interesting article about Emily Wilson, the first female translator of Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad.  My first thought was that this was not possible.  None? No female classicists to tackle it ever?  Apparently not.

Wilson’s first book “Mocked With Death,” grew from her dissertation. She explores the concept of mortality in classical traditions.  “Wilson’s study is also frequently touching. It is about the broadest of human inheritances: our constant awareness of all that we will lose, are losing, have lost.”  Deep.

I particularly love how she has radically reinterpreted the idea of polytropos.

“The prefix poly,” Wilson said, laughing, “means ‘many’ or ‘multiple.’ Tropos means ‘turn.’ ‘Many’ or ‘multiple’ could suggest that he’s much turned, as if he is the one who has been put in the situation of having been to Troy, and back, and all around, gods and goddesses and monsters turning him off the straight course that, ideally, he’d like to be on. Or, it could be that he’s this untrustworthy kind of guy who is always going to get out of any situation by turning it to his advantage. It could be that he’s the turner.”

And here is the opening as she translates it:

Tell me about a complicated man.
Muse, tell me how he wandered and was lost
when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
and where he went, and who he met, the pain
he suffered in the storms at sea, and how
he worked to save his life and bring his men
back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god
kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.
Find the beginning.


This article is, in the end, about treating the idea of ‘translating’ with more respect.

What a translation is doing — and what it should do — has been a source of vigorous debate since there were texts to translate. “I’m not a believer,” Wilson told me, “but I find that there is a sort of religious practice that goes along with translation. I’m trying to serve something.”

So often I have tried to get this simple idea across in my own work with multimodal texts.  I am trying to serve and honor what someone else has shared. 

And I think that translation is often the best way to understand what a person intended.  Even if that understanding is ‘off’, the translation still holds.  This makes for a much broader view toward creative work.  Translation is creation and, if such, it is not derivative at all. Find the beginning and relate and translate the tale.

Annotating Papers for the ASA’s “Pedagogies of Dissent” Conference

The idea for having pre-conference and post-conference conversation/collaboration that Jeremy Dean suggests here is exactly the kind of use case I have been looking for.  I think that annotation is a learning end in itself, but I also want it have some extrinsic value as well.  I don’t want the notes to just sit on a digital shelf gathering electronic dust.  That is what most of my annotations are doing.  These simple collaborations go a long way toward satisfying me.

Besides, the papers sound interesting

I repeat: the idea of annotating before a conference AND THEN using those annotations to bring an alt conversation to that conference is exactly the ‘next level’ I have been hoping for from Annotations need to be used!  They have instrumental value beyond intrinsic social and personal ones.